Swiftcurrent Pass

To get to the Swfitcurrent Pass you have to start at the Swiftcurrent Pass Trailhead in Many Glacier. The trailhead is located at the far end of the parking lot for the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn at the end of Many Glacier Road.

Around one-third of a mile from the crowded area, you will reach the side trail that leas to Fishercap Lake, which is the first destination on this hike. If you keep walking, you will reach the shore in about a hundred yards. Some people tend to skip this part, but the spectacular views are definitely worth the extra hike. If you go to the lake in the morning or evening, it is also a great place to spot moose. The lake got its name as a reference to George Bird Grinnell, whom the Blackfeet Indians called “Fishercap.”

Around 0.8 miles into the trail, there is a long stretch of aspens that grow along the path, which makes this an excellent choice for a hike in the fall when the leaves begin to change colors.

The trail continues on under the canopy of the forest as it heads towards Bullhead Lake, but there will be several open areas along the way that provide incredible views of the mountains. If you are lucky enough to go during the right season, you will pass through several patches of thimbleberries and huckleberries that can make for a tasty treat if they are ripe enough. This trail is normally very busy, but it is also a good idea to make a lot of noise to let bears know you are there. This trail, as well as many of the others at Glacier National Park, is still in bear territory. You should be very prepared and carry bear spray with you at all times no matter how safe you think you are.

The second destination on this hike is 1.7 miles from the trailhead, which is Redrock Lake. At this lake you will have spectacular views of 8851-foot Mt. Grinnell and Swfitcurrent Glacier towards the southwest, and 8436-foot Swiftcurrent Mountain almost directly towards the west. You may also be able to see the fire tower on top of Swiftcurrent Mountain if you look close enough.

If you look on the opposite side of the lake, just below Mt. Grinnell, you will be able to see Redrock Falls.

After this point in the trail, you will continue along the northern shore of the lake and as you make your way around to the far western shore you will pass some red rock formations, which was the inspiration for the names of the lake and falls.

2 miles into the hike, you will reach an unmarked split in the trail. If you go to the left this will take you down to the lower falls. Redrock Falls is actually a series of cascades and is one of the most impressive waterfalls in Glacier National Park. Once you get to the lower falls, you will notice there are several smaller trails on the sides, called social trails, which lead to various vantage points that offer views of the lower and upper falls.

Once you get back to the main trail, if you continue straight for a short distance you will get to an area that has outstanding views of the surrounding mountains, which include Mt. Grinnell on the left, Swiftcurrent Mountain straight ahead, and Mt. Wilbur on your right. If you look just to the left of Swiftcurrent Mountain, you’ll be able to see Swiftcurrent Glacier.

The Swiftcurrent Valley is an excellent habitat for moose due to the lakes, stream, and abundance of willows. Along this trail, you have a great chance of spotting one almost anywhere on the trail or alongside the trail.

Around 3.4 miles from the trailhead, the trail crosses over a swinging footbridge. Soon afterwards, you will come to a side trail that leads down to the Bullhead Lake. you will have an option either to stay on the trail for another tenth-of-a-mile, which takes you to the shore of the lake. Or you can go on the social path for a tenth-of-a-mile. The Social path is known for having more beautiful views than the lake.

Once at the Bullhead lake you will have incredible views of Swiftcurrent Mountain, Swiftcurrent Glacier, as well as the headwall above the lake.

At this point in the hike, the trail looks pretty confusing. You’re probably wondering which way to go and how you’re going to be able to get up to the pass. The trail looks pretty daunting from this point!

After reaching the lake, the trail travels though another stretch of willows thickets, which means this is prime moose territory again.

You will cross the second of two footbridges at about 4.1 miles from the trailhead. This means you’re about to begin the steep climb up the headwall. As you ascend along the first couple of switchbacks, you will pass through several thimbleberry and huckleberry patches again. It would be a good idea to make lots of noise in this area so bears will steer clear of you and your group.

About 5 miles from the trailhead, you will begin to climb above the scrub pines, this is where you will have unobstructed views of the Swiftcurrent Valley. This trail also begins to get steeper and steeper over the next mile or so and you will be exposed to a couple of very long drop-offs. If you are afraid of heights or getting tired this would be a good place to end your hike. Even the views from this point are spectacular.

If you decided to keep going, the trail passes near a waterfall that has a dropoff of several hundred of feet off a permanent snowfield, before spilling onto bullhead lake. The trail suddenly makes a sharp turn towards the northeast. At this point you will be able to see all of the lakes in the valley including Bullhead, Redrock, Fishercap, Swiftcurrent, as well as Lake Sherburne in the distance. If you look towards the north, you will soon be able to see Windmaker Lake as well. If you look back towards the south, you’ll have an amazing view of Swiftcurrent Glacier.

This is when the trail becomes very narrow, and incorporates many very steep drop-offs. After passing a bend in the the cliff known as Devil’s Elbow, you will need to be extremely cautious and pay very close attention to your feet placement. If you have vertigo, or a fear or heights, you may want to consider ending early or choosing another hike.

Around 6.1 miles from the trailhead, the trail levels-out, and the next four-tenths of a mile follow along a moderate terrain before one last push to the top.

7 miles into the hike, you will be at an elevation of 7185 feet and finally reach the top of Swiftcurrent Pass. If you continue down the trail for another 100 yards to reach the side trail that will take you to the fire lookout on top of Swiftcurrent Mountain. At this junction you will have an incredible view of 8987-foot Heavens Peak in the southwest. The Highline Trail will be 0.6 miles away, but the Granite Park Chalet is another 0.9 miles away. The side trail that takes you to Swiftcurrent Fire Lookout is around 1.4-miles and climbs around 1250 feet. This is the highest maintained trail in Glacier National Park.

If you have any evergy left over from this exhausting hike, I would highly recommend hiking for another quarter-mile along the main trail to an outcropping that provides excellent views of Granite Park, Heavans Peak, Mt. Cannon, Mt. Oberlin, as well as all of the area around Logan Pass.